How to Travel from Chicago to Detroit by Train, Bus, Car, and Plane

Detroit, Motor City

 Getty/pawel.gaul

There are many ways to travel from Chicago to Detroit, a distance of 238 miles. Driving is the most inexpensive mode of transportation. You can expect to pay between $27 and $40, and it will take you about 4 hours, 40 minutes. The quickest way to reach your destination is by flying, as it will take only 90 minutes; however you have to factor in the time it will take you to get to the airport, check-in, and wait for your flight to depart. Overall, flying is the most expensive route. There is a direct bus route between the two cities, but it will take you much longer to travel, and you should plan on six hours for the entire journey. The Amtrak train is also an option, and you’ll find that it’s not only an easy way to get from point A to point B but also, it’s relatively fast and inexpensive.

how to get from chicago to detroit
TripSavvy / Alex Dos Diaz 

How to Get from Chicago to Detroit

  • Train: 5 hours, from $40 (suggested route)
  • Flight: 1 hour, 30 minutes, from $100 (most expensive)
  • Bus: 6 hours, from $28
  • Car: 4 hours, 40 minutes, 282.2 road miles, 454.16 kilometers (most affordable)

By Train

Taking the train from Chicago Union Station to Detroit Amtrak Station (also known as Baltimore Street Station) is fast and easy. In five hours, you'll travel 282 miles and spend between $40 to $60. Trains depart every day, three times per day, making it easy to pick your desired time slot. Keep in mind that Detroit operates one hour ahead of Chicago, so you'll need to set your clock accordingly.

The most significant advantage of traveling via train is that you won’t have to worry about traffic or driving in inclement weather. If you’re traveling with a companion, you can mix and mingle instead of having to focus on the rules of the road. Trains are comfortable, clean, and smooth. Plus, the train stations both have amenities like Wi-Fi and food and beverage options.

By Bus

Taking the bus is an option for traveling from one city to the next as there are direct routes. However, it will take you longer than the other modes of transportation. You’ll have the choice of taking one of the buses that depart every four hours, which operates every day, Monday through Sunday. Traveling a distance of 293 miles will take you about six hours on a bus, and you can choose from the Greyhound USA or Megabus.

The Greyhound bus station is located at the Chicago Amtrak Bus Station at Chicago Union Station, located at 225 S. Canal Street. Book your bus tickets online through Greyhound or Busbud or purchase in-person at the station. The most significant advantages of taking the bus are that you won’t have to drive or navigate across state lines, there are direct routes, and there are multiple departure times.

By Car

Traveling by car from Chicago to Detroit is perfect for folks that enjoy a little road trip. You can move at your own pace, see the sites and attractions in each state as you drive through, and experience a vacation on your own terms. In just over four and a half hours, you’ll reach your destination by taking the quickest driving route, which has tolls. Travel from I-90 East to I-94 East to I-96 East, and you’ll reach Detroit.

You can expect to pay between $27 to $40 in gas and tolls. With the short distance between the two cities, you won’t have to consider overnight accommodations, food, or entertainment costs, but, of course, there are dining options along the way.

There are several advantages to traveling via car. You can see more of the country by visiting each state, making the road trip an adventure that includes much more than Detroit. You’ll pass through our country’s newest national park, Indiana Dunes National Park, for example, as well as Michigan City, Kalamazoo, and Ann Arbor. Driving is more flexible and comfortable than other modes of transportation, especially if you have kids in tow, and you’ll be able to add more to your itinerary if you choose to do so.

By Plane

Flights from Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) or Chicago Midway Airport (MDW) leave for Detroit, Michigan throughout the day, every day, serviced by Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta. The flight duration is about 1 hour, 30 minutes. You will have to factor in the time and expense it takes to get to the airport, however, using either Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) public transportation, rideshare, or driving. Plus, once you land in Detroit, you’ll have to manage transfers from Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

The biggest advantages to flying to Detroit from Chicago are that it’s the quickest route between the cities, there are multiple carrier options, and numerous flight times.

What to See in Detroit

Motor City has plenty to do to keep your interests piqued all year long, from artists’ quarters to fascinating museums to live music to bohemian markets to breweries. Trek to Belle Isle Island, situated in the Detroit River, see a massive collection of books and art at the Detroit Public Library, pop in the Henry Ford Museum and walk through Greenfield Village, and see where Marvin Gaye recorded at Motown Museum. There are many free things to do in Detroit as well.

Don’t miss the Eastern Market on Russell Street, unique to Detroit, which is where you can shop for fresh fruits and vegetables over six blocks. The largest outdoor flower bed market in the country is here as well. The market welcomes thousands of visitors year-round every Saturday, from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., so be sure to go early and wear comfortable walking shoes.

Detroit also has a lovely family and dog-friendly RiverWalk that stretches 5 1/2 miles along the Detroit River. In the warmer months you can rent bicycles or kayaks or go for a jog. Food stands serve up hot dogs and cold beverages. No matter what the season, it’s always fun to take in the views at Detroit’s urban promenade. 

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